Abbott’s 2022 NCAA All-Canadians: Offence

Photo courtesy: AP Photo/Paul Sancya

Another calendar year is drawing to a close and for football fans, that means powerhouse college programs meeting in primetime.

NCAA bowl season has captivated audiences for the better part of a month and the best matchups are still to come. As always, Canadian players are in the thick of the action, including a pair with a chance to win a College Football National Championship.

Over the course of 2022, more than 200 Canadians competed south of the border across all levels of NCAA football, many in key roles. For the fourth straight season, I’ve tracked each of those players all season long to assemble my annual All-Canadian selections, highlighting the best and brightest that our country has to offer.

As always, the team has been selected based on the quality of a player’s performance throughout the year and is not to be treated as an evaluation of their pro prospects or objective talent. While the strength of competition is taken into consideration, excellent production at a lower level of competition will be privileged over below-average play for a larger program.

For the sake of readability, the 2022 All-Canadian team will be presented in two parts. We’ll begin today with the offence, make sure to check back in tomorrow when I reveal the defence.

*Note: In order to remain consistent, player eligibility has been listed as normal, without regard to the 2020 COVID exemption. As a result, many seniors or redshirt seniors may have the option to return to school for an additional season.

Quarterback

Photo courtesy: AP Photo/Emilee Chinn

First team: Kurtis Rourke, Redshirt Junior, Ohio University (Oakville, Ont.)

2022 was the Year of the Rourke, though that might become a familiar refrain for Canadian football fans over the next decade. While Nathan exploded onto the CFL scene, his younger brother Kurtis made an even larger developmental leap to take the NCAA by storm.

In 11 starts, the six-foot-five, 216-pound pivot completed 69.1 percent of his passes for 3,256 yards, 25 touchdowns and just four interceptions, while rushing for 401 yards and four scores on the ground. A torn ACL rendered him unable to finish his impressive campaign, but Rourke was still named the Mid-American Conference’s Most Valuable Player and finished the season with a 92.0 overall grade from analytics firm Pro Football Focus — the highest of any quarterback in college football.

Second team: Jack Zergiotis, Redshirt Sophomore, Merrimack College [FCS] (Montreal, Que.)

Third team: Marcus Reeb, Senior, University of Minnesota Morris [D3] (Toronto, Ont.)

Running Back

Photo courtesy: AP Photo/Doug McSchooler

First team: Chase Brown, Redshirt Senior, University of Illinois (London, Ont.)

There were a number of tough choices to be made while assembling this All-Canadian team, but sticking the Jon Cornish Trophy winner as the country’s top NCAA player at running back was not one of them. A second-team AP All-American, Brown was the offensive identity for a resurgent Fighting Illini team, failing to cross the hundred-yard mark just twice over the course of his 12-game campaign.

The five-foot-11, 205-pound pack carried the ball 328 times for 1,643 yards and 10 touchdowns — currently good enough for third in the nation — while adding 27 receptions for 240 yards and three more majors through the air. A Doak Walker Award finalist, he generated 935 of those yards after contact while forcing 77 missed tackles on the year, which is a big reason why Brown is expected to be a mid-round NFL Draft pick in 2023 after opting out of the ReliaQuest Bowl.

Second team: Michael Herzog, Senior, Hillsdale College [D2] (Windsor, Ont.)

Third team: Jordon Benjamin, Freshman, Kenyon College [D3] (Montreal, Que.)

Receiver

Photo courtesy: AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

First team: Jared Wayne, Senior, University of Pittsburgh (Peterborough, Ont.)

If you are tuning into the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl between Pitt and UCLA on Friday, chances are you’ll hear Wayne’s name an awful lot. The six-foot-three, 210-pound pass catcher took over the Panthers’ number-one receiver role seamlessly after the departure of Jordan Addison, catching 55 passes for 1,012 yards and five touchdowns through 11 games this year.

Wayne’s 14 catches more than twenty yards down the field currently rank fifth in all of college football and he will have one more shot to pad his stats. The second-team All-ACC selection has yet to announce a decision regarding his future and currently sits tenth all-time in Pitt receiving yards with the option to return to school for one more campaign.

Photo courtesy: Jimmy Reed/New Hampshire Athletics

Joey Corcoran, Redshirt Sophomore, University of New Hampshire [FCS] (Montreal, Que.)

In his third year with the Wildcats, Corcoran went from relative unknown to the busiest pass catcher on an FCS playoff contender.

In 12 games, the six-foot-two, 201-pound wideout hauled in a team-leading 56 receptions for 670 yards and three touchdowns in a crowded receiving corps. With 13 missed tackles forced on those plays, he showed a playmaking ability that should translate to bigger things going forward.

Photo courtesy: AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

Nolan Ulm, Junior, Eastern Washington University [FCS] (Kelowna, B.C.)

There were a number of highly qualified candidates for the final receiver spot on the All-Canadian first team, but Ulm gets the nod for what he does when the ball isn’t in his hands.

The six-foot-two, 205-pounder was the third receiver in the Eagles offence, catching 29 passes for 396 yards and four touchdowns, but also racked up eight total tackles as a major contributor on special teams. That included a pair of tackles against FBS competition in Oregon, which CFL scouts will love to see.

Second team: Ethan Beselt, Redshirt Senior, Simon Fraser University [D2] (West Kelowna, B.C.) | Damien Alford, Redshirt Sophomore, Syracuse University (Montreal, Que.) | Dylan Djete, Freshman, Wofford College [FCS] (Levis, Que.)

Third team: Keelan White, Redshirt Junior, University of Montana [FCS] (North Vancouver, B.C.)  | Nick Mardner, Redshirt Senior, University of Cincinnati (Mississauga, Ont.) | Kevens Clercius, Redshirt Sophomore, University of Connecticut (Montreal, Que.)

Tight End

Photo courtesy: AP Photo/Rick Scuteri

First team: Tanner McLachlan, Redshirt Junior, University of Arizona (Lethbridge, Alta.)

A transfer from Southern Utah who was coming off a major injury, McLachlan walked on at Arizona and didn’t receive a scholarship until the eve of the season. He then rewarded his new team by posting the best year from a Wildcats’ tight end since Rob Gronkowski.

The six-foot-five, 240-pound athlete caught 34 passes for 456 yards and two touchdowns in his first FBS season. McLachlan has quickly become an Arizona fan favourite due to his hurdling of defenders and should be a name to watch going forward.

Second team: Theo Johnson, Junior, Penn State University (Windsor, Ont.)

Third team: Rohan Jones, Freshman, University of Maine [FCS] (Montreal, Que.)

Offensive Line

Photo courtesy: AP Photo/Adrian Kraus

First team: Matthew Bergeron, Senior, Syracuse University (Victoriaville, Que.)

An annual fixture on this list, Bergeron earns first-team honours one last time ahead of his final collegiate appearance in Thursday’s Bad Boy Mowers Pinstripe Bowl. The six-foot-five, 322-pound tackle will take part in the prestigious Senior Bowl in February after declaring for the 2023 NFL Draft, where he could be selected as high as the second round.

The second-team All-ACC selection allowed just 12 quarterback pressures through 11 games played at left tackle against elite competition. That was the second-fewest of any tackle with more than 200 true pass sets, earning him a 74.6 overall grade from Pro Football Focus.

Photo courtesy: AP Photo/John McCoy

Dontae Bull, Super Senior, Fresno State University (Victoria, B.C.)

Bull surprised some by opting to return to school for a fifth year as a starter but the decision resulted in the best season of his career. Unfortunately, it lasted just seven games before a broken leg cost him the remainder of his 2022 campaign.

Nevertheless, the six-foot-seven, 320-pound behemoth’s dominance as a run blocker earns him a first-team selection. Starting primarily at right tackle, he opened big holes while allowing just 11 pressures in the passing game to earn an 80.3 overall grade from Pro Football Focus, production that will catch the attention of scouts on both sides of the border.

Photo courtesy: AP Photo/James Kenney

Rusty Staats, Redshirt Senior, Western Kentucky University (Ottawa, Ont.)

While Rusty was raised in Watertown, Tennessee, he and the rest of the Staats family originally hail from the Ottawa area — a fact that a CFL team will be very thankful for in a year’s time.

The six-foot-four, 310-pound blocker started all 14 games for the Hilltoppers, allowing just nine pressures on 683 pass-blocking snaps in 2022. The honourable mention All-Conference USA selection earned a 70.6 overall grade from Pro Football Focus and has already announced he will be taking advantage of his final year of COVID eligibility by transferring to Texas Tech.

Photo courtesy: EMU Athletics

Sidy Sow, Super Senior, Eastern Michigan University (Bromont, Que.)

The model of consistency throughout his five seasons as a starter with the Eagles, Sow’s final college season was no exception. The six-foot-five, 326-pound road-grader was a first-team All-MAC selection in 2022, his third straight season having earned all-conference honours.

Sow started 13 games at left guard as a senior, allowing 17 pressures on the season. He received a 77.1 overall grade from Pro Football Focus and will be highly coveted in this year’s CFL Draft, if an NFL team doesn’t sign him first.

Photo courtesy: Illinois Athletics

Isaiah Adams, Junior, University of Illinois (Ajax, Ont.)

The only one of Illinois’ three Canadian starters that will suit up in the ReliaQuest Bowl on January 2, Adams began his college career at Wilfrid Laurier University before betting on himself and transferring to Garden City Community College. He turned that into a Division I shot with the Fighting Illini and started 12 games in his first season, 11 of them at left guard.

The six-foot-five, 315-pound blocker allowed just 10 pressures all year while also helping his countryman Chase Brown reach historic heights in the run game. Adams posted a 76.2 overall grade according to Pro Football Focus and earned third-team All-Big Ten honours for his performance.

Second team: Anim Dankwah, Senior, Howard University [FCS] (Brampton, Ont.) | Logan Taylor, Sophomore, University of Virginia (Bridgewater, N.S.) | Kyle Hergel, Redshirt Senior, Texas State University (Toronto, Ont.) | Gabe Wallace, Redshirt Senior, University at Buffalo (Salmon Arm, B.C.) | Christy Nkanu, Redshirt Senior, Southern Utah University [FCS] (Montreal, Que.)

Third team: Troy Kowal, Redshirt Senior, Minot State University [D2] (High River, Alta.) | Daniel Johnson, Redshirt Senior, Purdue University (London, Ont.) | Eric Schon, Redshirt Junior, College of the Holy Cross [FCS] (Barrie, Ont.) | Darius Bell, Redshirt Freshman, University of Maine [FCS] (Hamilton, Ont.) | Edouard Paradis, Redshirt Senior, Houston Christian University [FCS] (Levis, Que.)

Kicker/Punter

Photo courtesy: Paul Hokanson/UBBulls.com

First team: Anthony Venneri, Freshman, University at Buffalo (Hamilton, Ont.)

Serving as Buffalo’s punter in 10 games as a true freshman, Venneri demonstrated a big leg in his first season. On 43 kicks, he averaged a gross of 43 yards and net of 35 yards, making 12 kicks of more than 50 yards and pinning opponents inside their own 20 on ten occasions.

Second team: Sam Davenport, Redshirt Sophomore, Simon Fraser University [D2] (Abbotsford, B.C.)

Third team: Tracey Reynolds, Redshirt Senior, Adams State University [D2] (Vancouver, B.C.)

Honourable mentions: QB Quincy Vaughn, JR, North Dakota [FCS] (Hamilton, Ont.) | RB Thomas Bertrand-Hudon, R-SR, Delaware State [FCS] (Mont Saint-Halaire, Que.) | OT Noble Arterberry, Freshman, Hilbert College [D3] (Welland, Ont.) | OC Christopher Emslie, Sophomore, Fitchburg State [D3] (Toronto, Ont.) | OT Christopher Fortin, Sophomore, Connecticut (St-Rene, Que.) | OT Matthew Hewa Baddege, Redshirt Junior, Eastern Washington [FCS] (Port Coquitlam, B.C.) | P Troy Lendvay, Junior, Alabama A&M [FCS] (Montreal, Que.) | K Kristie Elliott, Redshirt Junior, Simon Fraser [D2] (North Vancouver, B.C.)

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.